ERCIM News No.27 - October 1996
Digital Libraries: A New Challenge
by Costantino Thanos
The recent development of the information infrastructures is rapidly
making available thousands of information repositories, wide bandwidth data
networks and information appliances, and advanced communications and information
access services. The development of those technologies that will make feasible
the efficient and cost effective development of on-line interactive multimedia
applications, which require coherent access to large distributed, organised
repositories of information and knowledge, is thus becoming increasingly
The Digital Library (DL) is a very important application area of the information
infrastructures. In particular, from the technological point of view, DL
systems will contribute greatly to the development of the critical information
management technology for the information infrastructure. Digital library
- information appliances and services that can provide access in a scalable,
efficient, and interoperable way
- information access techniques that can enable efficient searches of
large distributed information repositories, making the myriad of information
- multimedia information technologies that can, for example, synchronize
and integrate real-time delivery of voice and video, and can support content-based
search and retrieval
- economic models, pricing policies and intellectual property rights
In addition, digital library technologies must provide for dependability,
manageability, ease of use, inter-operability, security, and privacy.
At the same time, digital libraries will soon represent the primary information
and knowledge repositories of the information infrastructures. Their importance
from the educational, social and economic point of view is already evident.
In conclusion, digital libraries will constitute the core of the information
Given the crucial role of digital library technologies in the exploitation
of the information infrastructures and in order to be able to develop large
digital library applications efficiently and in a cost-effective manner,
a scientific programme should:
- foster and support a long term research that addresses the many technical
problems of the field which still remain open
- fund a number of pilot projects to develop the appropriate tech-nologies.
An understanding of digital library issues requires operational experience
which can only be gained by large-scale deployment of digital library systems.
In fact, ERCIM has recognised the importance of these technologies and has
thus decided to establish an ERCIM programme for R&D in the Digital
Library sector (see "The ERCIM Digital Library
Our objective here is thus to contribute to a better knowledge of current
research and development activities in the digital libraries field in various
countries throughout the world. Obviously, it is not a complete overview
but, nevertheless, we hope that it gives a good picture of the on-going
activities in this new and important field.
The contributions are divided into two sections. In the first section, short
descriptions of important national projects on the construction of digital
library systems are reported. The second section focuses on Digital Libraries
related research activities currently under way at single ERCIM member organizations.
I should like to thank all the contributors for having accepted our invitation
to give a brief overview or presentation of their activities or of some
of the most important activities carried out in their country.
Costantino Thanos - IEI-CNR
Tel: +39 50 593492
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